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Mystery Condition Taking Down Healthy Athletes?

A controversial video is fueling speculation about the causes - but the real story might be something else.

A circulating video featuring clips and articles of athletes collapsing and suffering cardiac episodes is drawing a lot of speculation and controversy over a supposed mystery condition. From high school student-athletes to professional Premier League footballers, all sorts of sad, scary stories are included in the video. Many conjectured a correlation between COVID-19, the vaccines, and these medical episodes. There is no clear evidence that points to the vaccine or virus as being the cause, however, many athletes who have received the vaccine or had COVID have struggled in their sport.

What’s In This Video?

For three minutes and forty-six seconds, with ominous music in the background, a series of news network videos, descriptive articles, and videos of famous professional athletes play one after the other, recounting medical emergencies. From the death of Christian Eriksen, 29 – whose cardiac episode rocked the world on an internationally televised stage – to the passing away of a Princeton, NJ high school soccer player, a range of saddening stories are included. Each photo of a published article highlights terms like “collapsed,” “heart attack,” and “cardiac arrest.”

COVID-19 and the vaccine were mentioned in a handful of the stories, but no causation was directly referenced. Reactions on social media or comment sections, however, are full of speculation about links between the pandemic, the vaccine rollout and mandates, and cardiac episodes among athletes.

History of SCD in Athletes

Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) has been a well-researched phenomenon in the world of sports over the last ten years. It is the most frequent medical cause of sudden death in athletes. Occurrences of SCD depend on the population. For example, in male Division 1 basketball players, the risk is estimated to be 10 times higher than the overall-athlete population, standing at 1 in 5,200 a year.

One study from 2015 found the overall athlete population to be 1 in 53,703 athletes a year. Estimates can range for a population from 1 in 23,000 to 1 in 300,000. The Causes for SCD depend on age and pre-existing cardiac conditions. For younger athletes, inherited conditions are more commonly the cause. For older athletes, atherosclerotic coronary artery disease or other developed heart conditions are most often the cause. These statistics specifically reference deaths, not survived cardiac episodes. These events are not extremely frequent, but on a global scale with billions of young, old, and professional athletes witnessing SCD is not as out of the ordinary as the video suggests it is.

Death by Vaccine?

A German media outlet has been a basepoint for most of the speculation regarding the COVID-19 vaccine causing sudden deaths in athletes. According to Report24, 75 fully vaccinated athletes have suffered from cardiac incidents over five months in 2021. European sources share tragic stories of athletes from multiple age brackets and levels of play suffering from heart-related medical episodes or death.

Christian Eriksen feature image

Christian Eriksen (Photo by Mattia Ozbot – Inter/Inter via Getty Images)

Another source, the Free West Media, shared a list of 69 international athletes and short excerpts of their circumstances. Not all of them suffered from COVID or received the vaccine. A handful included links to testimonies of these athletes’ cases as they were well-known. However, the majority of the list was not supported with evidence.

PolitiFact Claps Back

Fact-check websites were quick to combat the assumptions made based on the video and claims made regarding the involvement of COVID and vaccines with these deaths and life-altering medical episodes. PolitiFact’s “Truth-O-Meter” deemed the claim that “Athletes are collapsing with heart-related issued due to the COVID-19 vaccines” as false. The website determined there is no evidence the vaccine led the athletes in the video to collapse and investigated a number of the news reports.

Matthew Martinez, a sports cardiologist with the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLS said, “To date, I am not aware of a single COVID vaccine-related cardiac complication in the professional sports.” Danish soccer player Christian Eriksen, who was included in the nearly four-minute video, was not vaccinated against COVID when he collapsed on June 12, according to his team director. Eriksen continues his recovery from cardiac arrest. Keyontae Johnson, 22, a college basketball player was also included in the montage, and he collapsed before the vaccine was even made available to the American public. His family also shared in a statement that his incident was not related to the virus either.

~Read more from Keelin Ferris

Read More From Keelin Ferris

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